"Just Saw The News, Are You Ok?"
“Hey are you safe???” read the first of many messages we received yesterday after the news broke of a terrorist attack in New York City. On Halloween, a day that should be filled with sugar highs and costume contests, a 29-year-old legal permanent resident of the United States drove a pickup truck into a bike path in downtown Manhattan, hitting pedestrians and cyclists. The attack killed at least eight people and injured about a dozen more, making it the deadliest terror attack in New York City since September 11, 2001.
The news of the attack started to circulate immediately, and soon New Yorkers were flooded with phone calls and text messages from loved ones. Facebook gave anyone in the New York area the option to mark themselves safe. It’s a city of eight million people, but when things like this happen, people fear the person they love could be the one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the one whose memory will become irrevocably tied to the word victim.
And we get it; both of the writers of this piece were nearby when it happened, and the what-ifs that could have been our stories are haunting. But part of the reason extremists find acts of terror appealing is because of the fear they instill. Terror attacks create a domino effect in which initial panic grows into a frenzy of fear as people wonder what could happen next. Terrorism works to take away our sense of security, dismantling our safe places and making everyday activities, such as going for a run or a bike ride, feel like a risk.
Unfortunately, New York is no stranger to terrorism. And maybe that’s why the resilience with which the city handles tragedy is so breathtaking. Hours after the attack, the subway was littered with trick or treaters brandishing superhero masks and empty baskets. Groups of partygoers flooded the streets and the annual New York Halloween parade, with an increased police presence, went on as usual. Arriving home last night, one of our writers was greeted by a bulldog dressed as a princess on her apartment’s front stoop; the shock of pink and slobbering hello a far cry from the wailing ambulances and crime scene left behind.
It’s natural to want to retreat into the safety of closed doors when something scary happens close to home, but the aim of terrorism is to stop us from living our lives. If we let ourselves be controlled by the fear of what could go wrong, we give the terrorists what they want. We have to strike a balance between honoring the horrific loss of life and refusing to let terrorism take away our everyday happiness. We have to put on the costumes, take the kids trick-or-treating, wake up and go back to work. We have to go on.